As we saw from Holly’s post earlier we can see that it takes a lot of planning for the average typical person to make it through medical/graduate school, but when you are loaded with non-traditional stress it’s even worse. Therefore, having your “ducks in a row” is the best idea for every single person thinking of attending medical/graduate school. I would suggest the year that you apply for upper level university is the year that you learn how to get your finances easier to manage.
You may not believe this now, but the hardest part of graduate school isn’t just the cost or the lack of money it’s being able to have time to actually pay your bills. Your time is going to be so valuable that you will forget to press PAY on your electric bill. I’ve seen traditional graduate students lose track of their finances, but this could be 10X worse for non-traditional. These are just some of the suggestions I have.
Consolidate your credit cards down to 1 low interest rate with cash back rewards card so that the payment is automatically drafted from your account. Work with them on getting your interest as low as possible. The problem with multiple credit cards is the ability to easily lose track of the payments. Imagine you have 3 cards and they all come out on different weeks. That’s a total of 36 payments to keep track of. Consolidate to one card then you only have 1 payment a month totaling for 12 payments a year. If you are in medical school those 36 payments turn out to be 144 payments over 4 years versus 48 for once a month payments. Now if you are in graduate school and average time for matriculation for a PhD in biological sciences is 6 years that equals out to 216 payments versus 72 payments. You can see how that easily adds up.
After school care, before school care, and daycare:
So care for your children can get super expensive. In many large cities the YMCA offers reduced child care for after school and reduced summer camps. If this is not available find one that will help with your finances. Make sure to ask if the school has afterschool care and make sure you enroll early. However, if that can’t happen then my suggestion is to calculate the cost of the childcare over a month and pay it like you would your house payments. This would drop your payments from 52 payments a year down to 12. Remember, you pay weekly normally. Therefore, once a week becomes hard to remember. Some daycares allow you to have it automatically debited from your account, but this is hard for me to budget; therefore, I asked if I could pay monthly. I would pay on the first day of the month just like for a mortgage or rent. Yes, it was hard to do but it made life easier for me to budget. This again took your payments from 52 for the year down to 12. Over 4 years that goes from 208 payments down to 48 payments, and if you are in graduate school over 6 years that takes your payments from 312 to 72 payments.
Pay off your car loan. I can not emphasize the importance of having ZERO car payments. Please believe me when I say absolutely no medical or graduate student cares or judges if you are driving a clunker, a POS car, or a jalopy, but what will happen is your car can get repossessed really quickly and nobody wants that. Not only the threat of repossession but unless you have someone who is paying your bills and can afford to fix the car after it’s been dinged and hit and scratched there’s no point in having a nice car while in medical/graduate school. Have you seen those parking lots and parking structures? You are packed sardines. My car was beaten up more times then I could count. Looked like it was part of a fight club! Honestly, it was distressing. lol If you do have to keep a car loan make sure that it is automatically debited from your account at the beginning of the month.
So let’s tally this up over 4 and 6 years before and after consolidation of just these 3 types of payments.
Scenario 1: No consolidation
4 Years 6 years
Credit cards: 144 216
Daycare: 208 312
Car: 48 72
Total: 400payments 600 Payments
Scenario 2: Full consolidation and payoff
4 years 6 years
Credit Cards: 48 72
Daycare: 48 72
Car: 0 0
Total: 96 payments 144 payments
This difference may not seem like such a drastic change, but when you are working 70 hours a week, plus you have children, a house, and loved ones to care for it becomes overwhelming. If you can’t pay your bills you can’t live. Why cause yourself more stress? Get your finances in order…reduce the number of payments you have and I promise you getting a higher ED degree will be much easier…..
It’s all about time management!